Until last year, I absolutely hated even the idea of doing any kind of home maintenance or improvement task, like putting up shelves, getting a leaky roof replaced, or planning an extension. That might seem bizarre to you; so many people seem to love that stuff – buying all the right kit, filling up Pinterest boards, getting at least 3 quotes from tradespeople, sharing before & afters with friends. Not me. Something as basic as drilling a hole in the wall caused me genuine pain – and I know how irrational that sounds.
Then I moved into this house and my reaction to having so much to do was predictably severe. I’m embarrassed just to talk about how badly I coped with it all. I’ve realised that I had to learn how to be a happy homeowner. And it basically comes down to one secret.
I’m writing this in our finished kitchen. My wife, Sophie, unloads plates from the shiny dishwasher (a Which? Best Buy) that sits snugly under the quartz worktop. My son, Rory, is playing with his cars on the newly sanded hardwood floorboards. Behind him is a wall so smooth and cleanly painted that sometimes when I walk past it I like to brush my finger against it. But it’s not always been like this.
Anyone who considers themselves part of the Kurt Vonnegut karass will love this new, tenderly crafted documentary, Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. It’s the culmination of an epic 39-year journey taken by filmmaker Robert Weide, over the course of which he and Kurt clearly developed a loving friendship.
I consider myself something of a Vonnegut nut, having trawled Kurt’s biographies, autobiographical notes, and semi-fictional-autobiographical-narrative-elements in order to create Kurt Vonnegut Tweets. But I have nothing on Weide. And take it from me, the footage in this film – most of which I’ve never seen before – is absolutely fantastic. There are crystal clear home videos of Vonnegut as a young boy with curly blond hair, goofing around with his brother Bernard and sister Alice. There’s Kurt in his twilight years, revisiting houses and schools from his childhood, explaining how they influenced his writing. There are interviews with his children, where they talk very frankly not only about the goods but also the bads of their father.
Slaughterhouse-Five – often considered Kurt’s finest work – serves as the film’s gravitational centre. The camera itself is unstuck in time, darting from Kurt in his 80s to Kurt in his 20s, from Robert’s first contact with Kurt to him directing Kurt to cry ‘Tralfamadore!’ once more on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee. It all comes together as something that isn’t just highly informative but also deeply moving. And although at the start I was a little wary of how it featured Robert, the filmmaker, as well as Vonnegut, by the end I was convinced it was all done in a manner Kurt would’ve thoroughly approved of. Indeed, near the end you can litereally hear old Kurt over the phone in his raspy Pall-Malls-inflicted voice, saying how much he liked some earlier edit of this film.
Very happy to say that my latest story, ‘One Machine, One Message’, has just been published in the awesome Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (Issue 85). It might be up your street if you (or a version of you on another timeline) is interested in time travel, parallel worlds, and other such things that make your head hurt. I’m very proud of this one, so do check it out!
I started work on this story in 2017. It went somewhat into cryo until being defrosted in 2020. I have had so many amazing conversations with people about different drafts of it, where not only have I received invaluable feedback, but we’ve got lost exploring the concepts and/or drawing elaborate diagrams (if you read the story, you’ll understand why).
I’d like to thank at least the following people for these conversations (in no particular order): my mum, my brother, James, Rob, Ben, and Russell. I’d like to give a special thank you to Emily, for the long (seemingly endless?) conversations, not only in this timeline but probably countless others too.
I feel very honoured to have ‘Desynchronisation at Seven Sisters’ voted as the winner of the Fiction Desk’s Writer’s Award! It’s a great anthology and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for the other contributors, so this means a lot to me.
As described in my previous post, this story was a long time in fermentation. It took years until I was happy with how to write it, but once I had a handle on that it was a lot of fun to work on. Many thanks again to all who helped me with discussions and edits along the way.
My piece is called ‘Desynchronisation at Seven Sisters’. It was inspired by both a strange experience in a videogame (‘Sins of a Solar Empire’) about 8 years ago, and some real-life confusion at the Seven Sisters underground station. I hope you enjoy it and the rest of the anthology!
Thanks to all those who helped with feedback on drafts of this, including at least: Emily, James, Ben, and Rob Redman. Oh, and Alex, who fact-checked the geographical details.
As well as being available on Amazon (see below), you can read this on the After Dinner Conversation site. Check out all the other stories they have up there too. If you’re not sure what a typical After Dinner Conversation story looks like, then – in their words – imagine the “trolley problem” in short story form.
I’m very happy that After Dinner Conversation are publishing a new short story of mine, ‘The Library of Gromma’. It’s a story about a boy called Zac who is looking after his Gromma, an elderly engineer who has built up an immense mechanical library of her memories as a way of holding onto the past.
It’s great to be a part of the After Dinner Conversation family. I love their approach to short stories, which is to select those that spark debates, and provide tools to facilitate those debates. When I think about the stories I’ve loved the most over the years, they’ve often been the ones that’ve acted as springboards for philosophical discussions / bitter arguments with friends.
Huge thanks to those who commented on early drafts – including Ben, James, and Russell. Even huger thanks to my wife, Emily, for reading half a dozen drafts and joining me in conversation about this story after, before, and during many dinners.
I look back at running a Perfect Dark fan site, and speak to one of Perfect Dark’s original designers, David Doak, about the evolving significance of online fan content for the games industry.
It took recent articles celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Perfect Dark to jolt my memory back to those times. Perfect Dark was Rare’s highly anticipated follow-up to the ground-breaking GoldenEye, both on the Nintendo 64. I was 16 when it was released. I don’t remember the game as well as I should, considering that at the time I was running, along with my brother Jake and best friend Alex, what was probably the most popular Perfect Dark fan site in the world.
Previously, I’ve always left my nostalgia there: a hazy feeling of pride for something created in a time long gone. But this time I’ve decided to return. I’m using the wonderful Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive to revisit PDark.com in its glory days. I feel like I’m diving down to the depths, to shine a torch around an old sunken wreck.